The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has urged the government not to be focused on economic growth in the upcoming budget, but instead, to prioritise the lives and livelihoods of the public amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Protecting the lives and livelihoods of the public should be the priority, instead of economic growth, in this Covid-19 crisis. Retrieving the economy will be impossible if we fail to tackle the virus' infections," BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said Tuesday.
He stated this at a virtual press conference outlining BNP's proposal centering on the national budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The BNP leader said the economy will not get any breathing space if a health hazard like the Covid-19 pandemic remains out there.
BNP, in its proposal, recommends a mid-term budget structure in line with a three-year recovery plan to alleviate the virus crisis. The structure will have a new combination of monetary and revenue policy.
Additionally, the party advocated for protecting jobs to prevent economic constraints, measures to check falling incomes and prioritising the creation of new jobs.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul called for treating their proposal to form a Tk87,000 crore special fund to tackle the novel coronavirus' fallout as the baseline for the upcoming national budget.
He put forward his party's recommendation to allocate five percent of GDP to the health sector in the national budget. The BNP leader also suggested there be a health allowance scheme for marginalised people.
Mirza Fakhrul said, "Both income tax and VAT [value-added tax] will shrink due to economic constraints. Therefore, the revenue collection will not meet expectations. Dependency on foreign credit will rise to meet the budget deficit."
"The proportion of credit, compared to the budget deficit and GDP, will have to be kept tolerable. Monetary policy, alone, to meet the supply of liquidity will not be able to tackle the crisis – proper revenue policy is also needed," he added.
BNP also put forward a number of recommendations to counteract the budget deficit that is larger than in usual times due to the pandemic.
The recommendations include: trimming unnecessary expenditures, dropping the capacity charge and subsidies for power, taking measures against extra manpower, increasing grants from bilateral and multilateral foreign sources, going for long-term low-cost foreign credit with a grace period, not borrowing from local banks, and determining revenue sources within easy reach.
Mirza Fakhrul also commented that the government has failed to establish good governance in the economic sector.
He said the virus is heralding a worldwide change in societies, economies and politics. The BNP leader observed that social stability will deal a blow and the economy will get stuck for an indefinite period if a major overhaul does not take place.
He said the relation between the state and its people will determine the nature of the upcoming change.
"The current Awami League-led government is not accountable to its people – because it does not care about the ballot and does not have any legitimacy due to the controversial election. However, we are calling a greater national unity regardless of party and view during this crisis," said Fakhrul.
The BNP leader also commented that the government will face social, political and economic consequences as it has failed to tackle the pandemic.